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The end of a podcasting era

Here in Sweden, podcasts are getting more and more popular each day. Some of the most popular ones may have a hundred thousand listeners per episode or more. I’m not at all a heavy user but I discovered podcasts already 10 years ago and the one I started to listen to was For Immediate Release, The Hobson and Holtz Report by PR practitioners Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz.


This podcast has been a tremendous resource on topics related to PR, social media and technology and I have been a regular listener since day one, with the exception of the last six months when I have not been as frequent.

Since the start they have produced an impressive 824 episodes of the highest quality. But this is the end of a podcasting era since Neville Hobson, which I have had the pleasure of meeting in person, has decided to call it a day to focus on other projects.

Shel Holtz will continue to run the podcast in a slightly new format on this new site. I would like to thank them both for the incredible amount of work they have put into this podcast over the years and best of luck for the future.

I will continue to follow FIR and I do recommend that you give it a try. To subscribe, just visit the subscribe page here.

Posted in Blogging, PR.

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None of the 20 largest cities in the US control their names on Instagram

New York skyline

In the early 90’s it became possible to trademark buildings in the US so that the use of for example images of the Chrysler Building in New York would be protected. The owners of trademarked building could now stop unlawful commercial use of their buildings on everything from t-shirts to souvenirs. As trademark law evolved, more areas have been subject to trademark protection and for example the New York Port Authority has claimed ownership of images showing the Manhattan skyline. Weird as this may be, it shows the commercial value in owning and protecting a trademark for a famous landmark or place.

Social networks are exceptions

With that in mind, it is rather strange that social networks are exceptions to the rule that a trademark owner can claim the right to a name. Most social networks distribute account names on a first come first served basis. That is the reason some major brands like Mercedes-Benz own the domain name but the Facebook address belongs to an individual.

There is of course a democratic aspect of this approach since it means that everyone has the same chance to register a name and it’s not just about who has the deepest pockets. Maybe you remember how Facebook took away the vanity url “/harman” from Harman Bajwa and gave it to Harman International? A move later reversed by the social network.

The other side of the coin is of course that brands stand little chance of being the first to register on every new app or platform that may be the next Twitter. Even if you use external services to keep an eye on such registrations, the management of all this eventually will become expensive and time consuming. Individuals are almost always the first to enter new sites and while some may have a legitimate reason to register a name, many don’t. And once a name has been assigned, it is almost impossible to claim it unless you have a trademark registratation. Even if you do, there are no guarantees that you will get your name back.

Branding places in social media

An area where social network user name policies becomes almost completely unregulated territory is place branding. Countries and city names aren’t necessarily protected trademarks everywhere. I haven’t been able to find out if it is common to have a trademark registration for a city name for example. An effect of this is that a large portion of place names on Instagram have been snatched by individuals instead of for example tourist boards or other official tourist bodies.

In fact, none of the 20 largest cities in the US control their actual names on Instagram. Both @newyork and @newyorkcity belong to (unknown) individuals. The unofficial @newyorkcity and @sanfrancisco accounts have 1.2 million and 111,000 followers respectively which means that owning these accounts can be quite lucrative.

Four accounts are private and four others are completely inactive with 0 posted images. Half of the 20 accounts have posted 10 images or less. It might seem like a little waste that an account name like @losangeles only have 13 followers (after studying this account for two days it seems that the owner deletes and posts new images every day to keep the account active, three days ago it had 10 images, today it has 3).

Instagram names of the 20 largest cities in the US (number of followers)

1. – Unofficial (1.2m)
2. – Unofficial (5)
3. – Unofficial (12,900)
4. – Unofficial (1,132)
5. – Private (827)
6. – Unofficial (523)
7. – Unofficial (49)
8. – Unofficial (3,656)
9. – Private (326)
10. – Unofficial/Inactive (57)
11. – Unofficial/Inactive (8,806)
12. – Unofficial/Inactive (1,595)
13. – Unofficial (111,000)
14. – Unofficial/Inactive (43)
15. – Unofficial (129)
16. – Unofficial (303)
17. – Private (133)
18. – Private (2,602)
19. – Unofficial (9)
20. – Unofficial (2,690)

What to do then? I don’t have definitive answers but I do think there needs to be a debate about this. Account names in social media is real estate, it is part of an infrastructure and a good handle can be of great value much in the same way as a good street address.

  • There has to be a balance between the democratic principle that everyone has the same chance to register and the protection of certain rights holders. These are the news ways in which people, brands and organizations communicate. If it is easy to find the right account of a city, country or a brand it benefits all users.
  • It should not be possible to register a valuable name and not use it. Inactive accounts should get a notice of cancellation after 12 months of inactivity, with the chance to activate. If not, the account should be terminated. And it should also be possible to apply for inactive names even without a trademark.
  • Social networks need to prevent obvious cases of cybersquatting. For a city like Charlotte, it might not be a surprise that there are others that want to claim the same handle, but in many cases people register these names hoping to benefit in some way. Networks need to work against that.

Posted in Marketing.

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How to find your most engaging tweets


You can learn a lot from looking at statistics and that’s why it may be a good idea to take a look at your Twitter Analytics page now and then. I looked at my stats from September 2014 to May 2015 and learned a few things like:

  • Average engagement rate is decreasing
  • I have been tweeting a lot less in the last five months compared to last fall
  • I get a lot less link clicks now than in 2014
  • The number of monthly retweets vary a lot from month to month
  • Although I tweet less and engagement rate is decreasing, the average daily reach is actually increasing

I can now use this knowledge to improve my Twitter presence by trying to increase the number of tweets, improve the content so that it engages more people, include more links to increase link clicks for example. That is, if you think these are important numbers. The reason daily reach continues to increase is probably an effect of a continuous increase in followers.

The tweets with highest reach per month
Other interesting things that you can find in Twitter Analytics are for example the tweets with highest reach for the last few months. Some of my top tweets are in Swedish which is not surprising since about 80% of my followers are from Sweden.

May 2015: Instagram photo
Reach 12,100

April 2015: News article
Reach 1,500

March 2015: Blog post
Reach 14,200

Feb 2015: Blog post
Reach 2,800

Jan 2015: News article
Reach 4,400

Dec 2014: News article
Reach 19,100

Nov 2014: Blog post
Reach 18,300

There are a few conclusions to be made from looking at these tweets.

  • Inspiring images help your tweets get noticed and shared, but you may also reach out without images
  • Getting retweeted by an influencer increases reach a lot
  • Twitter cards for your blog posts or for news articles may increase engagement
  • If the link you are sharing doesn’t use Twitter cards, it helps to add an image manually
  • Hashtags on trending topics also help in getting reach
  • Blog posts and news articles create a lot of engagement

Now take a look at your Twitter Analytics, you may learn a few things that could help you reach out to more people on Twitter.

Posted in Blogging, Statistics, Twitter.

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Using social media influencers as brand ambassadors

Christine Donaldson

At today’s Rethink conference in Stockholm, Christine Donaldson talked about her experience as an Oakley Women Brand Ambassador. Christine who is a musician and a skier uses social media to create a unique online persona in order to garner the attention of an online audience. She started using Youtube for her music and Instagram to show her passion for skiing. When she began to establish herself as a social influencer, brands began to approach her with suggestions of partnerships. Today she is an ambassador not only for Oakley Women but also for other brands.

For someone who is interested in building a personal brand her advice is to find a personal voice and make your content distinguishable from others.

Today, there are no or few passive audiences. Customers rely on peers and create content on their own. By partnering with social influencers, brands could reach customers in ways that hopefully increases trust in the brand. Or in Christine’s words:

“Use the tool of human experience to get customer attention.”

Ideally, a brand ambassadorship should:

  • Strenghten relations with customers
  • Influence people to buy your product

From her experience as a brand ambassador, Christine gave the following advice in regards to ambassador programs.

Steps in building a brand ambassador program

Find the team – how to find your brand ambassadors

  • Hold a contest (have applicants create content)
  • Use a hashtag (see who is submitting the best content, that is of value to your brand)
  • Invite relevant social influencers (if you already know who is influential, invite them to participate)
  • Create a relationship (approach them with interest and offer)
  • Provide a contract (make it official, sort out the terms that also allows you to terminate the relationship)
  • Promote interaction and support between ambassadors

Beware of robots

  • Never use robots to attract an audience (stay clear of influencers who are using non-ethical ways of building a following)

Provide value and build spirit

  • Hold a retreat
  • Offer fair product trade or value
  • Share ambassadors profiles on your web site
  • Use exposure as an incentive for quality content

Activate with ambassadors

  • Utilize ambassadors in owned advertising assets (video/photo shoots)
  • Feature as models in campaigns
  • Create community events for ambassadors to attend or manage (so that customers can meet brand ambassadors)
  • Ticketed events where ambassadors attend (for example interested customers can pay to learn skills from ambassadors, like skiing)

Set expectations

  • Give social media training and training on brand voice and values
  • Share campaign launch information so that ambassadors remain informed
  • Enforce a  certain number of posts and collect data monthly

When brands start to engage with social influencers they can follow the ladder of social engagement, a model described by Tara Hunt. Read more about that process here.


Posted in Business, Marketing.

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Salvation Army ad nails it with THAT dress

About a week ago, the entire Internet was discussing whether a certain dress was white and gold or black and blue. Everyone was talking about it so this was a perfect situation to use for real-time marketing purposes. That’s exactly what the Salvation Army in South Africa did today with this tweet below, and boy did they nail it with this one!

The advert is part of the Salvation Army’s latest anti-domestic violence campaign.

Via Daily Mail.

Posted in Case Studies, Twitter.

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Selfie sticks banned in venues

Selfie sticks, those extendable poles that enable users to take selfies beyond the normal reach of the arm, have become incredibly popular. Even the Beckhams use it. But as practical as they are to the user, they can also be annoying to others, for examples at concerts or sports events. Now several venues have started to introduce restrictions or outright banning the selfie stick.

Selfie Stick

Several major British music venues like O2 Arena and Wembley Arena in London have banned them citing safety and health reasons. More likely the reason is that they may disturb the experience of fellow visitors.

“”Selfie Sticks are not permitted at Academy Music Group venues. This is in keeping with our existing policy that prohibits the filming and photography during a performance with iPads and other tablet devices and includes any such obstructions for the satisfaction of other customers,” says the owners of the O2 arenas.

Sports stadiums like White Hart Lane and Emirates Stadium in London have also imposed bans on selfie sticks. And now there are also restrictions to the use of selfie sticks during the Australian Open in tennis in Melbourne for fear that they may distract players. Others voice concern over the use of the extension pole on for example Disney theme parks and call for restrictions.

It may seem ridiculous at first that there is a need for a selfie stick ban, we should be able to handle this by applying common sense, right? And while I’m not a fan of banning, we know that common sense is not all that common. Instead, there is a real risk that the selfie stick becomes a selfish stick when users do everything to get a great photo at the expense of everyone else. With that said, anything could be used inappropriately. Banning sticks is a bit of an overreaction to me. What do you think?

Posted in Marketing.

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